24.6 miles (1446.1 to 1470.7)
Not long after I relax in bed, something rustles just outside my tent. Probably a breeze. No, probably not. Something’s happening out there. I sit up and grab my headlamp. Well, well. A mouse is perched on one of my shoes, gnawing on a lace. I shoo it away and bring my shoes inside the tent, where they usually spend the night, but they’ve grown so stinky that I can’t stand to have them inside with me. But better that than lose a shoe – or a lace – to rodent teeth.
I sleep well. Sunrise dazzles with pink and orange clouds. I enjoy every moment of it, stocking up on pretty pictures.
Not long into the day’s hike, the trail emerges in a shrub field with long views toward Lassen, though the volcano itself is hidden. I can see all the way to what I suspect is the Trinity Alps Wilderness. The trail takes me west, then south, then zig zags me into a close-up of Mount Shasta. I can finally see the mountain from base to tip. Wow. I can’t walk by. I have to sit and absorb this view. No photo can capture the feeling of staring at the volcano, but I keep trying.
For the next few hours, I walk in shade cast by clouds. I move in and out of fir forest, in and out of shrub fields where the views are long. Today I’m making good time. I stop to rest twice more, then climb to the day’s high point. From here the trail will drop 3,300 feet to the McCloud River.
I descend as far as Deer Creek Spring before stopping for lunch. So far my stomach feels fine. Let’s see what lunch will do. I eat in a campsite near the water, then lie down for a nap, but there’s too many animals around and I sit up again and again as chipmunks and birds run past me. I give up on napping just as a doe saunters into the site. She doesn’t give me a second glance and proceeds to eat her way around the area. Talking and clapping don’t scare her away. This is a tame animal.
After an hour of rest, I continue on. The trail descends through Douglas fir forest. Massive trees appear here and there as I wrap through little drainages. At Butcherknife Creek, I take a break and rinse my filthy clothes in the creek. I also eat a snack and rescue a butterfly from drowning. It’s a busy afternoon.
My stomach acts up a few miles later, but not nearly as bad as on previous days, and the emergency soon passes. Poison oak has come in thick, so thick I have to watch where I step. Near Ash Creek Campground, a thin buzz starts up near my feet. I leap, hoping I’m moving away, not toward. The buzzing stops. I prod a stump with my trekking pole. Buzz. Yep. There’s a rattlesnake in there.
I zip through the car-accessible campground and across the river. In two miles I’ll be at Fitzhugh Gulch, where there’s a campsite. I arrive in 40 minutes. It’s not even 7pm. The campsite is empty. I sit to eat dinner. Ugh. It’s not empty; it’s occupied by mosquitoes! This is by far the worst population of mosquitoes I’ve encountered so far. As I eat, I study the app. The next campsite is 3.5 miles away. I’m in a steep canyon (yay!), so there aren’t likely to be any sites before then. I want to ditch the mosquitoes, but this is my first big day since my stomach went bad, and I want to end the day feeling well. I’d hate to push too hard and ruin my stomach. So I set up my tent and ready tomorrow’s food for a quick departure. At least I get to listen to a creek tonight, and it’s louder than mosquitoes.